Nursery Field Tune Is No Lullaby
By Tom McDermott
The lack of adequate playing fields in Rye met head-on with a concern for the town’s wetland ecosystem at the November 20 City Council meeting in a chamber filled with parents, coaches, and concerned citizens. The impassioned but respectful back-and-forth conversation stemmed from an agenda item concerning a SEQRA and Coastal Community review of a proposed construction of a “donor-funded turf field” at Nursery Field off Milton Road. Nursery Field is frequently unusable for local traveling and high school teams due to poor drainage.
Before residents rose to speak, City Manager Greg Usry and City Planner Christian Miller briefed the audience on a schedule of meetings and workshops to begin in January that would provide a thorough review of the proposed project. Miller emphasized that the meetings would offer a broad overview, with public comment, a review of consultants’ findings, designed not to be rigid.
Councilwoman Sara Godard expressed interest in the Council’s considering both natural grass and artificial turf fields, although she noted that a private group would only fund a turf field. Usry assured the Council and the audience that the January meetings would include a side-by-side comparison of both options.
Proponents of a turf field offered the following reasons for their position:
- High school athletes must currently share the Rye High turf field for practices; Nursery Field play cancellations are discouraging to young athletes.
- All the travel by car to distant fields at Stepinac, SUNY, and Holy Child already damages the environment through emissions.
- A landmark decision in Concord, Mass. found turf far more playable for Northeast weather conditions; and maintenance of grass fields requires more chemicals.
- New turf fields blend in naturally into the landscape.
Those who oppose artificial turf focused mainly on environmental concerns:
- Rye’s Sustainability Plan calls for the City’s stewardship of the wetlands; there is a concern for impact on the buffer zone near the field.
- There is a question regarding the original DEC grants that helped create Nursery Field in 2003: the City has spent $110,000 but it should not move forward until it knows whether the stipulations in the grants would allow use of a turf field.
- A 2011 study commissioned by the City stated the area was in the 100-year floodplain and synthetic surface was not recommended.
- Not using turf to protect one critical local ecosystem would not prevent artificial turf from being used on other fields in town.
While the outcome at Nursery Field is unknown, there is certain to be far more discussion.